What to do if your cat ate rat poison

Rat poison or rodenticide toxicosis is an alarmingly common condition in veterinary medicine, especially at early spring when people declare war to vermin on a new level. Because of small required doses, few early signs, and fast performance, rodenticide often leads to a lethal outcome in cats.

Cat playing with little gerbil mouse on the table.

In this article you will learn about signs and treatments of rodenticide poisonings and what to do if your cat ingests a rat bait.

IMPORTANT: Visit a veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten a rat poison. Early intervention is crucial for successful treatment. Bring the poison package with you.

How do rat poisons work?

There are different kinds of rodenticide on the market, but most common ones are anti-coagulant rat poisons. Their active ingredients, such as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, warfin or diphacinone prevent blood from clogging, eventually leading to internal bleeding and death.

Be aware that early after ingestion there may be no signs at all. That is, even if you only suspect your cat has eaten rodenticide, do not hesitate to visit a veterinarian, instead of waiting for signs to appear.

Signs of anticoagulant rat poisoning in cats:

  • bleeding nose
  • blood in urine
  • blood in feces
  • pale gums due to blood loss
  • swollen abdomen due to concentration of blood
  • hematomas
  • lethargy and depression due to blood loss

There are other types of rodenticides, too. For example, active ingredient bromethalin has become popular recently and it affects brain, resulting in neurological signs.

Signs of bromethalin poisoning in cats

  • hyper-sensitivity to touch
  • hyper-excitability
  • limb paralysis
  • muscle tremors
  • seizures

What to do if you think your cat ate a rodenticide

It does not matter if you are sure or if you only suspect that your cat might have eaten a rat bait. You must take your cat to an emergency veterinarian immediately, since the early treatment is the most successful.

If possible, bring the package or brand name of the rodenticide ingested. Treatment depends not only on type of rodenticide, but also on its active ingredient and concentration.

Depending on severity, your cat may be treated inpatient or let home the same day. Make sure to follow your veterinarians instructions precisely.

Likely you will need restrict your pet’s outdoor access and activity, but the most important thing during the treatment is to prevent repeated exposure to rat poison. Not to mention, that is is good to be prevented in any case.

How to prevent your cat from eating rat bait

Cats can ingest rodent poison in several ways. Most commonly they find rodenticide set up in their own home or during their outdoor ventures. Secondary poisoning, that is poisoning after hunting down a sick rat is less likely, though possible.

Intentional cat poisoning by discontent neighbors is not a rarity, also, even though dogs are more common victims of this. Stupid thing is that intentional poisoning is hard to prove.

But can you prevent your cat from eating rodenticide?

  • Use alternative ways to exterminate vermin. Rodenticide isn’t the only option available, and, if you care about your pets and other animals, don’t use it. Wise placement of traps is equally effective way to exterminate pests.  Note that unwise placement of traps can also harm cats, though is unlikely to kill one.
  • Use bait stations. If alternatives are not up to consideration, then use bait station, which is a closed box with openings, small enough to keep pets out, large enough to let mice and rats in. Remember that they are still not completely tamper-proof and you should position them out of your pet’s reach.
  • Contact a professional pest exterminator. They are experienced, knowledgeable about what they do and more effective than average do-it-yourselfer. They may solve your problem without using rodenticides, if not, they use them with high responsibility.
  • Prevent pests from returning. Extermination is only one part of the process. Keep your house rodent-proof, seal the possible rat entry points, don’t let garbage and food leftovers to accumulate. Also, remove any objects and vegetation, that can serve as a rodent nest, from your yard.
  • Store rodenticides out of your pet’s reach. Put them in a closed space that pets have no access to. Do not dispose rat poison in a regular trash.
  • Keep your cat indoors. Since you have no control over how your neighbors get rid of pests, it is wiser to keep a cat from wandering around and eating whatever he or she wants. Though much controversy about life quality of indoor cats, there is no doubt that indoor life is much safer and indoor cats do live longer than outdoor ones.

Treating rodenticide poisoning is successful only if you seek for a medical help early after the ingestion–within 4 to 24 hours, depending from poison in question. Preventing your pet from ingesting rat poison in the first place is much safer and easier thing to do.